Knowledge Justice in the Digital Archive: The Exclusions of ‘Open’ / The Inclusions of ‘Closed’
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The digital revolution has arguably made more information – otherwise locked away in the exclusionary spaces of libraries, archives, personal collections, and memory – more accessible to more people, who can now both contribute to and draw from remarkable digitized repositories of free content, like Wikipedia. The open data, software, and access movements have been influential in this ‘democratization’ of knowledge online. The sheer quantity (scale) of digital content and the participatory architecture of digital spaces can lend themselves to an underlying assumption that digital is more equitable, representative, and accessible than the analog processes that mediated knowledge in the past. But as we rely ever more heavily on online knowledge repositories today, it is especially crucial to ask who and what is included in these new, virtual collections. And what is missing? Today, nearly half the world remains offline, so we know that access to and creation of digital content is not equal. This talk addresses digital inequality in terms of ‘knowledge justice’ – the equal participation, representation, and visibility of different forms of knowledge online. It starts at the level of marginalized communities and asks: when is ‘open’ exclusionary? And when does ‘closed’ offer opportunities for self-determination and empowerment?